The plan should be tailored to meet your professional or business needs, including the type of work or service you aim to offer, the skills you want to develop, and how long it will take to get there. When professionals and businesses know where they are heading, they can focus much more on getting there.

How do I create a career development plan?

To begin your plan you need to take stock of where you are now, set your career goals and then focus on activities that meet those goals. We've set out five steps for career planning below.

1. Conduct a SWOT analysis

Conducting a SWOT analysis can help you to establish a baseline for your career development plan. SWOT stands for

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

A SWOT analysis considers the strengths and weaknesses of your current position alongside any opportunities for progress and threats that may be holding you back.

Once you've identified the areas that need improvement, think about any opportunities that could help you make progress right away. Some questions worth pondering include:

  • Are there classes or training programs that can help me acquire new skills?
  • How can I collaborate with other people in my field to build my networks?

Consider using your strengths to compensate for any weaknesses. For example, if one of your weaknesses is networking, yet one of your strengths is conscientiousness, you can use your conscientiousness to build your networks by following up on work collaborations with a thank-you email. By redefining the task as one of conscientiousness rather than networking, you can change how you perform it.

You may find that certain aspects of your profession or job aren't as important as they once were and are undermining your progress. Or you might find out that the biggest threat to your career progress is a lack of meaning or purpose in your work.

For further guidance take a look at this article on Indeed.

2. Set SMART Goals

SMART goals are a great way to track your career development. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

This means SMART goals should be tied to specific events in your life, have clear objectives and targets, be achievable within a reasonable time frame, and involve realistic steps that you can take towards reaching them. They should be clearly defined at the start of the career planning process so that you don’t get sidetracked along the way.

3. Develop a time management strategy

Time management involves making sure that you are using your time effectively. Some ways to do this include:

  • Prioritising tasks
  • Planning ahead
  • Setting realistic deadlines
  • Avoiding distractions

Time management is especially important when you are trying to advance your career. By planning ahead and setting realistic goals, you can focus on activities that will have the biggest impact. This will help you reach your goals more quickly and find new opportunities. Time management takes practice to become effective, but with a little effort, you can start to see results in no time at all.

4. Work smarter, not harder

Smarter working is all about making the most of your time and resources. That might sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to end up wasting time on tasks that are not helping you to achieve your goals.

For example, you might be tempted to spend hours putting together a new website or tweaking your social media strategy, but these may be low-impact tasks that make no big difference to your business or professional standing. What’s more, they can take up valuable time that could be spent working on revenue-generating activities instead.

If you want to work smarter, aim to spend less time on tasks that don’t move you toward your goals. Instead, focus on activities like networking, marketing, and improving your customer service skills, which will really pay off in the long term.

5. Consider career counselling or mentoring

Career development is about taking steps to develop new skills that enable you to take up opportunities for advancement. A career counsellor or mentor can also help you by offering a set of personalised tips for getting ahead. Some key tips for staying on track include:

  • Keeping an eye on what’s happening in your profession or industry
  • Taking classes or workshops to acquire new skills
  • Offering to volunteer or mentor others. This shows that you’re willing to go out of your way to help someone else, and it could make you stand out from other candidates for a new post or promotion.

Regardless of the type of career development path you choose, the key is to try new things so that you stay fresh and your skills remain up to date.